Wine and Spirits
Buying beyond the liquor store.
A booze auction is a smart way to sample wines that don’t always retail on the East Coast—or anywhere, for that matter. Bonhams wine specialist Gary D’Urso says some of the house’s more affordable lots include bottles from California vineyards that only sell via mailing list. Acker Merrall & Condit (160 W. 72nd St., nr. Amsterdam Ave.; 212-787-1700) regularly hosts live auctions. The next, on April 27, will take place at Michael White’s Marea on Central Park South—a nice alternative to the de rigueur hotel-conference room setting; rare bottles can start at $125. For the hard stuff, Bonhams is the only house in the city to hold whiskey auctions, selling everything from a prized Macallan Millennium 50-Year-Old ($13,090) to the elusive Pappy Van Winkle (four bottles of the fifteen-year vintage sold for $774). An April 29 auction includes a pre-Prohibition bottle of Green River Bourbon 1907 (a.k.a. “The Whisky Without a Headache”), estimated between $600 and $800, and six-bottle bundles of Old Grand-Dad, non-diluted Maker’s Mark, and Johnnie Walker Swing from the eighties and nineties, expected to go for as little as $130—or around half the market price.
The real diner-chic aesthetic.
Your local pizza shop went bust and is now a TD Bank. But where did all the Formica tables go? There’s a good chance they’re with Michael Amodeo & Co. Inc. (212-473-6830; amodeoauctions.com). The restaurant auctioneer sells industrial-size ovens, mixers, stoves, and griddles, as well as front-of-the-house items like chairs, bar stools, and chandeliers, often for 25 to 50 cents on the dollar of their retail value. (Dinner plates, pots, and pans go for as little as a buck a piece.) When Amodeo helped clear the contents of the arcade attached to Nathan’s Famous in Yonkers last December, games like Ms. Pac-Man and Street Fighter went for $500 to $1,000. Amodeo’s auctions take place multiple times a week, with locations varying; check the website for details. Manhattan’s Mountain Auctioneers (212-875-8844; mountainauction.com) also moves stock for shuttered businesses; on April 29, it’ll auction the contents of a midtown café and gift shop, which includes coffee grinders and cappuccino machines.
Plundering the attics of A-listers.
Half the fun of memorabilia auctions is checking out the bizarre items up for bid—most of which are prohibitively expensive anyway. Guernsey’s (65 E. 93rd St., nr. Park Ave.; 212-794-2280) skews toward baby-boomer nostalgia, with past auctions selling off Jerry Garcia’s guitars and JFK mementos, including the president’s bifocal Ray-Bans. In 2011, Hutter made headlines for auctioning the estate of Jack Kevorkian, which counted, among other things, his driver’s license ($2,500) and typewriter ($1,900). (Alas, his euthanasia machine didn’t sell.) Snap up coveted John Hancocks at Swann’s biannual autograph auctions; the next one, scheduled for May 23, includes the signatures of Jack Kerouac ($3,500 to $5,000), Oscar Wilde ($4,000 to $6,000), and Lord Byron ($2,000 to $3,000), as well as a pencil-written letter from Emily Dickinson describing the biblical battle of Jacob and Esau as “a trifle” compared with “the skirmish” in her mind ($6,000 to $9,000). From April 24 to May 3, GottaHaveRockandRoll.com’s online shoe auction puts Ray Charles’s Bally leather loafers on the block ($1,500 to $2,500), along with Elvis’s Vegas boots, Britney Spears’s lyrics-inscribed wedges, and several pairs of autographed shoes worn by Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of Sex and the City; proceeds benefit La Guardia High School. Sites like CharityBuzz.com and BiddingforGood.com are also worth checking; last May, Origin Theatre Company used the latter to auction off a date with Downton Abbey star Brendan Coyle. (Winner Sandra Doshner, who bid $20,000, was treated to a carriage ride through Central Park with Mr. Bates, to whom she read poetry.)
A bottomless market for would-be Trumps.
For experienced house flippers, NYForeclosures.com and PropertyShark.com track upcoming foreclosure auctions at local courthouses. At 2:30 p.m. on May 2, for instance, a Borough Park commercial space will go on the block at the Kings County Courthouse (360 Adams St., nr. Johnson St., Room 224), starting at $167,400 with a lien of $790,229. At 11:30 a.m. on May 8, a three-story building in Park Slope, estimated at $107,160, will be auctioned off at the Kings County Sheriff’s Office (210 Joralemon St., nr. Court St., Room 911). While it is possible to get financing for property purchased at auctions, Misha Haghani, a principal at Paramount Realty USA, says you’ll need to get your funding secured in advance. It’s prudent to arrange a visit to the property with an engineer, who can do an inspection on-site, and to have your attorney review the purchase-and-sale agreement before signing anything. “There’s often no contingency with auctions, so if you win, you have to close or you will lose your deposit,” says Haghani. “But for the serious buyer who doesn’t want to go back and forth with offers and counteroffers, an auction can be a timely way to buy.”
Squad cars, firetrucks, and old classics up for grabs.
New York’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services moved its Brooklyn Navy Yard auctions online last year and now sells many of its fleet vehicles via e-retail site Copart.com. Anyone who doesn’t mind a few dings and dents can bid on Crown Vics, Priuses, GMC trucks, and more, some of which have starting bids as low as $200. (Just read the fine print: Some rides are good for parts only; others have structural or flood damage.) Copart further liquidates inventory for rental companies and car dealerships, unloads repossessed cars for banks, and sells vehicles deemed salvageable by insurance companies. The stock ranges from recent-make Lexuses, Audis, and BMWs to classics like a 1963 Chevy Corvette. Select cars can be viewed in person at Copart’s Long Island yard (1983 Montauk Hwy., Brookhaven; 631-776-0994).
MTA’s Lost & Found, NYPD’s stolen merch, and more.
Nowadays, the NYPD holds its auctions on PropertyRoom.com, a repository for the unclaimed lost, seized, and stolen items dumped in the back rooms of police departments. Most auctions start at $1, with a large cut of the sales going back to the department and community from where the stuff came. The most sought-after items include jewelry, electronics, bicycles, and power tools (construction sites are hot spots for theft, according to Property Room CEO P. J. Bellomo). The New York City Transit’s Asset Recovery Group periodically sells off lost-and-found property via mta.info; recent scores include a pair of Tabitha Simmons flats ($7.51) and an evening gown ($2.01). To make an offer on surplus transit materials—old escalator steps, elevator timing belts, and the like—e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The state’s surplus auctions, meanwhile, are handled through eBay; place bids on everything from bathtubs to record players to old classroom furniture at stores.ebay.com/nysstore.